Heart-attack incident leads to store boycott

October 26, 1990|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Evening Sun Staff

A small group of neighborhood residents protested outside a Walbrook grocery store today after a 57-year-old man died when he suffered a heart attack in the store and was taken outside and left on the sidewalk.

The protesters urged potential customers and passers-by to boycott the store whose owners yesterday evicted James Drumwright, of Druid Park Drive, apparently believing he was drunk.

Angry residents said Drumwright's death was due a lack of sensitivity on the part of Kenney Kang, 31, the owner of the B&M Market in the 3100 block of W. North Ave. Kang, who has owned the market for the past three years, is Korean and the neighborhood is predominantly black.

"This has been my store for years and now it won't because of the way they acted," said Veronica Harris, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood. "If something like this happened, why didn't they just call 911?"

Many residents said the store management is often rude and suspicious of customers, and tries to hurry them out of store.

"There ain't one thing about this incident that's racial," said Kevin Cameron, an area resident and a self-proclaimed "equal rights advocate." "They have been treating the community who patronizes them this way for years and now something like this has happened."

Kang said his employees carried Drumwright from the store after he seemed incoherent and was found slumped over the meat counter. Employees said an alcohol bottle was shoved in his pocket.

"I just assumed he was drunk," Kang said. "I deal with a lot of people in the store. Some of them get rowdy. My employees said his eyes were glassy and I told them to move him outside."

Kang said he did not call the police because he didn't want to see Drumwright arrested for a public drunkenness charge.

Marcus Gaffney, 20, the store manager, said he tried to talk to Drumwright but the man only mumbled and urinated in his pants. Gaffney said he and another employee carefully carried Drumwright from the store and leaned him against a wall outside the store.

"Everybody is trying to make it seem as though we killed him," Gaffney said. "I didn't know he had a heart attack, nobody did. We would not have touched him if we did."

Kang called the incident "unfortunate" but said he would react the same way under similar circumstances.

"Given the same conditions, nine times out of 10 I would have done the same thing," Kang said. "This whole thing has been blown out of proportion."

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